Never forget Tupac

September 11, 2008, at R15, a Sacramento bar.

September 11, 2008, at R15, a Sacramento bar.

Photo By Nicholas Avey

Only god can judge them: So the Twin Towers and a United Airlines plane walk into a bar on 9/11

Which is what actually happened last Thursday at R15, a Paragary’s owned bar in Midtown, during Scandalous, its weekly club night. House deejay and blogger Nicholas Avey took pictures of the costumed revelers—20-somethings downing drinks, eating cherries, taking turns wearing the World Trade Center costumes—and posted them on his blog, Takeover Tokyo.

Later, the grabs appeared on the heavily trafficked New York City blog Hipster Runoff under the post “Seen any possibly inappropriate costumes lately?” Comments were the usual HRO slapdash: “[T]his looks like the most depressing party ever.” “[D]oes n e 1 know where to get those building jackets. Do they come n dffnt colors?”

Others were deeply offended.

On Monday, Paragary’s fired Avey, then asked him to take down the R15 photos. He refused. “We just want to make it clear that it was not a night that had anything to do with us,” a Paragary’s rep explained of Avey’s firing, adding that responsibility lies with “that whole scene, that little hipster scene.”

Of course, Paragary’s employees didn’t stop the partygoers from wearing those 9/11 costumes on 9/11. “[They] thought they were dressed up like robots,” the rep said of the managers on duty.

But Avey says R15 employees knew exactly what was taking place. He also thinks everyone is overreacting: “There are more important things going on in the world than a bunch of kids wearing some costumes,” he said. But then again, Avey too wore one of the WTC outfits that evening.

So, is getting drunk and re-enacting 9/11 in a bar on its anniversary inappropriate? Yup, just like it would be inappropriate if people donned blackface and dressed up like a hurricane named “Katrina” on August 29. Or if they downed sake bombs and recreated Pearl Harbor on December 7.

No doubt many of us are desensitized to violence, mass murder and 9/11. But maybe the 9/11 R15 costume party reaffirms a different fate, which a recent Adbusters story also hinted at: Hipsters are just a “youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.” (Nick Miller)

Dear mama: To MOM: I am all for self-expression, and am even an advocate for your unique and odd performances. But last Friday at Gallery Horse Cow crossed the line.

I took a friend to your show, and I warned her to stay a few hundred feet away from you (so to avoid being slapped in the face by dead fish). We were excited to hear your set.

And then … the rotting cow head.

You romanced the head and rubbed its dead flesh all over your exposed vagina. I tried to not gag as the putrid smell overtook the night air. And the bonfires didn’t help, the flames intensifying the stench.

I really enjoyed your performances a few months ago, when it was just you, 1950s orchestral music and a maraca. But that wasn’t enough, right? You had to step it up. Thank you, Mom, mother, for a pointless and disgusting evening. I took a shower as soon as I went home, but still felt gross. Love, TL (Terra Lopez)

How do you want it? One more righteously conscious hip-hop show and I just might stab an innocent person in the face. It’s not that positive music is bad. It’s just that I get it.

You’re against materialism? You hate people who don’t keep it real? Check, check. You like to rhyme about how good you are at rhyming? You’re driving me to violence. You know it’s bad when I have to listen to Tupac to calm down.

Well, sometimes something good and unexpected does come along at just at the right time. I’m talking about the White Noise Festival that happened last Thursday, September 11. What a breath of fresh air to walk into Old Ironsides and to see the stage spilling over with band members waving shiny brass instruments. Band leader Harley White Jr. was in the corner, shuffling around with his bass, making that stink face that jazz musicians seem to do when they’re lost in the groove. Larry Lanier (of Little Richard’s original Upsetters) sat in with the band on sax for a night of totally uninhibited music, free of pretentiousness.

It’s funny: Look at all the bands that try painfully hard to be unique and end up looking and sounding exactly the same. Then look at the traditional musicians off in the corner of some club, totally unfashionable, sweating out their craft, just enjoying the shit out of what they do. Thug life. (Josh Fernandez)

All eyez on Chuck: MDL (Mental Defective League) singer Ground Chuck is a critter of the lithe, arachnid mold; it seems that only the heavy metals with which he adorns himself keep his boots on Earth. This Second Saturday, MDL played a legendary set at The Distillery, for which Chuck was especially decorated, wearing an impressive chain-mail hood and a full mask of ominous makeup. The venue’s low ceilings could barely contain his energetic jumps, which excited the crowd—full of Nordic god-types—into a frenzied, reptilian dance ritual, and the Viking warrior hair took celebratory flight when the band announced a clever new number, “Doc Martinez the Cholo” (a play on Manic Hispanic). For those who inexcusably missed this most triumphant show, Chuck provided some advice: “Carry on the street-punk tradition. Make use of the time you have, and play loud music.” And, above all, be sure to catch MDL’s next performance. (Alexa Shapiro)

Keep ya bug head up: “The beats bought an ounce, the funk bought a pack.” And it also bought Doodlebug, Butterfly and Ladybug—otherwise known as Digable Planets—media companies and otherwise lucrative careers in the music industry. And now, after a 10-year break from performing, the group has re-emerged with an album, Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles . The word? It’s the same super-chill, jazzy sound loaded with poignant lyricism that made Digable Planets famous with Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) back in 1993.

I caught the trio (performing with a deejay and percussionist) at Harlow’s with local hip-hop favorites Who Cares? on a recent Wednesday night. The show opened with three horn-rimmed bespectacled emcees, who also displayed dexterity on sax, keys and turntables, bouncing soulful harmonies back and forth before segueing into bouncing beats and eloquent flow mixed with ever crowd-pleasing chants like, “Fuck the cops!”

Between sets, I commiserated with an honest friend on the pitiful populace of partiers parading pretentious goods shamelessly down J Street. Were it not for the fact that Midtown is nightly overrun with such douchebags, I think I’d enjoy hanging out among its pretty rows and great haunts much more often.

Then Digable Planets took the stage, reminding me of why I’d ventured out of my bubble in the first place. Of their arthropodic pseudonyms, Ladybug once said, “Insects stick together and work for mutually beneficial causes.” And I was stoked these bugs stuck it out. Reliving my cool sixth-grade summer and relishing their funky, cadenced rhythm and rhyme was well worth dragging my ass out to dance. (Niki Kangas)